If you’ve got the time to finally watch the best shows of 2021 that fell off your radar, we’ve got nine great options for you. Because for every Squid Game that exploded, many more shows went unnoticed.
Not all of them were perfect, but we picked the best of the best underrated shows of the year. These range from Showtime’s excellent new series that is too good to miss, to a deliciously goofy Hulu series that just ended at two manageable seasons.
So pop some popcorn, light one of the best streaming devices and get ready to watch the stories you tell your friends and family that they need to see.
There’s so much going on in the very first episode of Yellowjackets, a masterfully narrated Showtime drama, that you might think it’s a clip for an entire season. The premise introduces us to a high school football team caught up in their own Lord of The Flies-type incident. But moments into the show’s start, Yellowjackets pulls the camera into the future, with the company aware of the crash that’s already happened and looking back with some perspective. Nimbly leaping between points on a timeline, Yellowjackets is rooted in the ever-reliable question of “how do people act when it’s time to survive?” Oh, and Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Melanie Lynskey are running the show, which should be enough for an all-star squad to get you playing. The first episode is free on Youtube at present. – Henry T. Casey
Watch it on Show time
If you think becoming an adult is a nightmare, remember your teenage years? The daily grimace of adolescence for like… five or seven years in a row ?! PEN15 captures it so accurately that it will send you back through a portal to the year you were 13. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle write the series, as well as fictional younger versions of themselves. While some of the stories reflect the personal experiences of the creators, the painful awkwardness in them is universal. Who among us hasn’t fallen for someone in college and been outright rejected? Or do you feel embarrassed by braces, bad hairstyles, and uncool clothes? With season two the last, PEN15 will always remain a time capsule for those uncertain times when children yearn to adulthood and tremble with fear as they grow older. – Kelly woo
Watch it on Hulu
We are lady pieces
Sometimes I just want to watch something that brings joy. Hit this – a lot of times. We Are Lady Parts made me smile and laugh maybe more than any other show this year. And it is on peacock! There is a curve for you. The British comedy highlights an underserved group: Muslim women. And in this case, Muslim women who want to rock! Amina (Anjana Vasan) is a microbiology student who thinks she just wants to get married and settle down. Then, she landed the role of lead guitarist in an all-female, all-Muslim group and her ambitions began to change. The only problem? She has bad stage fright! We Are Lady Parts isn’t just sweet, funny, and irreverent, it features some legitimate bops. Please note: songs can live in your head, rent free, for a while. – Kelly woo
Watch it on peacock
A coming-of-adulthood tale about rebellious teens doesn’t break new ground, but Reservation Dogs lends a unique flavor to the well-trodden genre by drawing on an all-Indigenous cast and crew. The series comes from creators Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi and stars Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor and Paulina Alexis. The teenage quartet resides on a reservation in rural Oklahoma and constantly plots petty crimes they may commit to earn money and escape to California. The inspiration for their look and ambiance comes from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (hence the name). Between the heists and sarcastic humor, there is a poignant exploration of what “home” means to the descendants of the people whose land has been stolen from them. – Kelly woo
Watch it on Hulu
The two others
This wickedly funny dissection of fame and its entrapment never found much following on Comedy Central. It was saved by HBO Max, yet another reason it’s the best streaming service about. Season 2 continued to follow the misadventures of aspiring gay actor Cary (Drew Tarver) and aspiring talent manager Brooke (Helene York), whose younger brother and mother (Molly Shannon) are big stars. . Their attempts to straddle the tails of the family and pursue their careers usually ignite dramatically and cringe. But these aren’t just failures and weaknesses for the “other two” – sometimes they succeed and it’s nice to witness them. – Kelly woo
Watch it on HBO Max
You originally got me from: Notting Hill Meets Fleabag. Like Phoebe Waller-Bridge before her, Rose Matafeo writes and stars in a series of her own creation. It’s based on a real meeting she had with her Kiwi friends in London. Jessie is a bit of a mess, juggling two jobs while living with a roommate in Hackney. On New Years Eve, she has a one-night stand – only to find out later that he’s world famous actor Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel)! They share an electrical chemistry, but like all romantic comedies, various obstacles block their way. For example, Jessie is mortified when she leaves her house one morning and is seen by the paparazzi as a cleaning lady. But she is also not ashamed of her sex life and after a romantic relationship, she takes to the streets. Hands down (and feet up) it was the most delicious thing I have seen all year. – Kelly woo
Watch it on HBO Max
Amazon is spending half a billion dollars trying to replicate Game of Thrones with its prequel series The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, he misses one of the best shows of his team, a show that ends prematurely in a few weeks. The Expanse is a magnificent exercise in world-building, with twenty strong and memorable characters plotting against each other as an impending external threat predicts to wipe out humanity. It’s like Game of Thrones takes place in our own solar system a few hundred years into the future, with all the political and personal drama that that entails. – Paul Wagenseil
Watch it on Amazon Prime Video
Arcane may have lived in the Netflix Top 10 TV since its release (it’s attached to League of Legends games, so it came with a built-in audience) but it’s still the kind of show that many can need a boost to consult. Although it currently holds a 100% score on Rotten tomatoes, it is subjected to that typical “but it only looks like a children’s show” attitude that is also regularly attached to feature films made by Pixar. Additionally, anything that fits a video game with vivid colors and gorgeous animation (both two-dimensional and three-dimensional) will also be considered at least a bit suspect by some. That said, her story of the orphan sisters Powder and Vi has a strong emotional boost, always finding ways to make you think, “Wow, they really put a lot of attention into that.” – Henry T. Casey
Watch it on Netflix
Starz’s oft-wacky small-town pro wrestling melodrama mixes a little GLOW with lots of Friday Night Lights. His central story is about Jack Spade (Stephen Amell), who considers himself an author of the medium, spending hours writing his scripts for the in-ring dramas for Duffy Wrestling League, which he and his brother Ace (Alexander Ludwig) took on. . after their father Tom committed suicide. But it’s way too complicated because both Jack and Ace are class wrestlers and have pitted against each other as the top good guys (“face”) and bad guys (“heels”, according to the title) in DWL. Ace’s reckless behavior doesn’t match Jack’s controlling personality well, and it often creates chaos in the ring. Because if professional wrestling is predetermined before the start of the match, anything can happen on the fly in the ring. – Henry T. Casey
Watch it on Starz